Tribute by Charles at June's Memorial Service at SPCG
Well June here we are, part two, of your very own operation- hope-not as Churchill called his funeral, I always remember you giving us a file of similar instructions. It used to sit in a filing drawer in the office, we just called it “June Boden-Tebbutt”.
I speak of Churchill because Churchill was really your ultimate first boss. When you were in the WRNS, taking morse code in Greenock, taking in the news of who was coming back from the sortie and who wasn't, writing it up and taking it to the Commanding officer. Not a pleasant task. Fridays were fun however as you and the girl in the neighbouring bunk would dress up in your glad rags and go drinking with no less a personage than Lt. Philip Mountbatten also stationed at Greenock. who never forgot the experience .
When you had finished in the Social Secretary's Office of John Lewis, where you organised outings, trips, theatre tickets, Constance Spry and Cordon Blue. Glyndebourne, Florence. You found a filing cabinet at the Bradfield Boys Club on the then very rough Peckham Estate, in London. I used to rehearse plays in it. The, by then, Duke of Edinburgh came to cut a ribbon, went down the receiving line, did a double take when he got to you and said, "what's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this..."
The fluffy white haired old lady.... Fluffy white haired old lady indeed, who helped choose Mark Oakley to be priest in charge when we, SPCG, couldn't afford a priest. You suggested me, chose Rob Keen caretaker, and brought round Simon the present incumbent, Georgie Marchant recalls. Georgie is under doctor's not to try and make the journey here, so sends her love, apologies, disappointment. She rang me to say what a wonderful friend you were to her and other members of her family. Really helpful when one of you granddaughters became a John Lewis partner. You, and Georgie and Len for that matter, supported Dan and Iris Theatre, writing letters for support, phoning The John Lewis music dept for money when Iris was doing opera .... and even leaving a legacy to Iris Theatre. Philip Cooke who can't be here today, recalls great fortitude, and your incredible fairness in all matters, a good judge not only of character but of people's ability & strengths. When Mark Oakley got promoted to Archdeacon, left, and I was running the Interregnum, or as I preferred to call it, “I am sorry I haven't a clue”, you appeared one morning stuck your head round the door and said "Would it help if I answered the phone"... Yes, said I, and thus began the happiness of working with you.... It took you six months to work out the office dynamic and after that you were running the Interregnum. I have to say, as a churchwarden that was your job.
You said to me once that you had worked in offices all your life..... Your skill with words was invaluable. I always made sure outgoing correspondence went passed your proofing skills. You were brilliant with tone and content.... You corrected the service paper each week, and when paper work wasn't up to scratch, brilliant at saying not in my name, and sending it back. ... You dispensed tea and coffee until your immobility prevented you .... and then we made the drinks for you... Oh! those extraordinary Summers, when you would arrive in the office in the morning and place in the fridge a lemon, tonic and gin..... So after a busy day you would say at 5pm, drinks time.... And we would discuss the day’s happenings over a glass. You would often say to me, “Is the car going my way.... and I would drive you home to the flat behind Russell Square nattering about the state of our church and at the flat we'd have another gin.
Sometimes you would say, “I think it is time The Administrator drove The Churchwarden down to Eastbourne.... We will stay at the Hydro.... We were going to see your best friend Liz, Mrs Gregory. You met her in your Earl's Court bedsit days when you two managed to get Egon Ronay to dinner and write about it. Liz was PA to Sir Osbert Lancaster, cartoonist at the Daily Express and general all round set designer, Glyndebourne again...and in her old age Chair of the Eastbourne European Chapter, inviting politicians to speak, arranging Dinners, and often roping you in as sous-chef. Charity Dinners you both cooked too.. Later when you and Liz took to spending Christmas in local country hotels you would say shall we have the Grant's down? Me and mum would join you for a night and bring you home to London. Until the fateful Christmas when your train was cancelled by a storm and I rescued you from Charing Cross or was it Victoria to spend that Christmas with us on Denmark Hill.
There are people who think most of life is turning up, and we certainly had a whale of a time getting to your funeral in Swansea as a bolt of Lightning had fouled the signalling on the GWR, cancelling our first train & making our second, leave 20 minutes late... However, thanks to the masterful reorganisation skills of Messrs, Clergy, Undertaker and Nephew (they are brilliant), we got there and held the service 2 hours later than advertised at 4pm. So, it was you, who confirmed the view that in life, it is really what you do when you get there. We had been discussing Sir Winston Churchill in whose Navy you had served in the WRNS, in the second World War. How people disparaged him. And you said, "It was what he did..... It was what he did...... Well, June darling.....look around, take a moment to reflect on the people you chose..... It was what you did
Thank you, thank you,...... thank you.